co-authored with Tymofiy Mylovanov (Kyiv Faculty of Economics)
Corruption has been humanity’s scourge for the reason that starting of time. We might debate when corruption began however frankly it doesn’t matter whether or not it was Eve or the serpent who corrupted Adam or anyone else who dedicated this sin for the primary time. The vital factor is that this “illness” may very well be unattainable to eradicate however it may well definitely be handled. And so no one needs to be shocked to listen to tales about corruption in Ukraine (or some other nation) however the focus needs to be on how the corruption subject is being handled by the Ukrainian authorities and society.
To this finish, it’s useful to match Russia and Ukraine. In brief, Russia has a protracted, wealthy custom of corruption. Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, a well-known Russian satirist within the nineteenth century who spent most of his life working as a civil servant, allegedly mentioned: “If I go to sleep, get up 100 years later and anyone asks me, what’s going on in Russia, my fast reply might be: consuming and corruption.” A prophetic forecast! In an analogous spirit, Leo Tolstoy noticed: “The corruption in Russia just isn’t a vice of some remoted people, however a widespread and deeply rooted situation, which penetrates all of society and all of presidency.” Authorities officers had been virtually anticipated to take bribes and the one query was what constitutes an inexpensive bribe. For instance, in his immortal comedy The Authorities Inspector (Revizor; 1842), Mykola Gogol, a Ukrainian who grew to become a outstanding Russian author, describes a senior authorities official scolding a junior authorities official for taking bribes incommensurate along with his rank. This temporary literature evaluate conveys the spirit of endemic corruption. It was so rampant that Russia would lose wars (e.g., the Crimean conflict of 1853-1856) due to it.
Naturally, the Russian empire unfold this poison to its conquered lands and peoples (extra lately, Russia exported not solely vitality but in addition corruption at ranges as excessive as a German Chancellor). Being a Russian colony, Ukraine was “contaminated” with this tradition. It isn’t to say that corruption is solely a Russian trait, however that prime tolerance and even implicit help of corruption within the Russian empire/USSR has a particular detrimental impact on all nations beneath its yoke. Importantly, nevertheless, not like Russian society, the Ukrainian public bought fed up with ubiquitous graft and tried to do one thing about it.
The 2004 Orange Revolution was a response to the “election” of Viktor Yanukovych, who embodied corruption for protesters. The 2014 Maidan Revolution was once more a response to the widespread corruption when Yanukovych was Ukraine’s president. There was a transparent consensus within the society that corruption is #1 enemy. Moreover, for the reason that Russian annexation of Crimea and partial occupation of the Donbas in 2014, corruption has change into an existential menace to Ukraine as a sovereign state.
Recognizing this mortal hazard, Ukraine has set on a path of reforms to reduce corruption as a lot as doable. The progress has been gradual and with occasional setbacks however it’s simple that Ukraine now’s vastly totally different from Ukraine in 2014, the low level for the nation beneath Yanukovych. With the Western assist and the clear demand of the society, Ukraine has established quite a few establishments tasked with stopping (NAZK), investigating (NABU), prosecuting (anti-corruption prosecutor), and punishing (anti-corruption courtroom) corruption. Transparency has been enhanced dramatically: public procurement has to go through ProZorro platform, politically uncovered folks (and their households) must reveal their incomes and spending, and so on. The patrol police was reformed to remove petty bribery. Ukraine’s motion to be “not Russia” meant that folks mustn’t supply and mustn’t take bribes.
Clearly, such reforms take time however the outcomes are tangible: actual sentences to high-ranking officers engaged in corruption, an enormous clean-up of the banking sector, digital VAT refunds, impartial boards, and so on. The energy of Ukraine’s armed forces is maybe the last word testomony of how totally different Ukraine is. Current scandals with overpriced procurement of meals for the military drew monumental public outrage and spurred the authorities to double down on corruption. In distinction, the failures of the Russian military resulting from corruption hardly generated any dialogue or protest in Russia.
Is the conflict on corruption in Ukraine gained? No, one has to take care of a number of issues within the courts and at decrease ranges of presidency in addition to in some areas of procurement that haven’t been reformed, administration of state-owned enterprises, oligarchs, and so on. Right here we will promise solely “sweat, blood, and tears”. However some key battles have been gained. Maybe extra importantly, Ukrainian society is decided not solely to defeat Russian aggression but in addition to beat again corruption. This means a change within the equilibrium: taking and providing bribes is more and more odious and socially unacceptable. Certainly, the share of people that imagine that corruption can by no means be justified elevated to 64% from 40% earlier than the full-scale conflict.
A while sooner or later, Ukraine will rejoice a Victory Day to honor those that fell defending the nation from the Russian invasion. However there might be no victory day for the conflict on corruption. As an alternative, it will likely be a perpetual battle with ups and downs. Nonetheless, so long as being “not Russia” is in Ukraine’s “DNA”, Ukraine will overcome this illness and completely shift to the equilibrium the place corruption just isn’t tolerated. So if we go to sleep and get up 10 years (not 100 years!) later, we may very well be shocked to study that Ukraine was as soon as a corrupt nation.